Wise Advice for Pet Owners

Wise Advice for Pet Owners

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An Interview with Donna Schwartz, DVM

Coral Springs Animal Hospital

By Rod Davis, CEO, BBB Serving Southeast Florida and the Caribbean

As a pet lover and someone who learned the lessons about finding and caring for my dogs the hard way, I thought it would be helpful to reach out to one of the experienced veterinarians in our area. Donna Schwartz is a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) at Coral Springs Animal Hospital and I appreciate her taking time to share advice from her years of experience helping us care for our pets.

Rod Davis: Dr. Schwartz, what advice do you have for people considering bringing a pet into their home and lives?

Donna Schwartz: Deciding to take on the responsibility of pet ownership is a big decision and one that should not be treated lightly. Owning a pet is a big responsibility, emotionally and financially, so certain things should be considered prior to obtaining a pet.

It is always best to do your research and decide which type of pet is best for you, your living situation and your family. If you have decided on a dog and you are not particular about a certain breed, then going to a shelter or a rescue is a good first step. Certain things you should ask yourself are; can I handle a puppy or are you looking for a dog that is older, more mature and perhaps trained already. Puppies are like babies. They require constant supervision. Housetraining and basic training are very time consuming. If you are interested in a certain breed, it is always best to consult your veterinarian and friends. Do your research on the breed that you feel you may want. A good source of reliable information can come from www.AKC.org. The American Kennel Club is a valuable tool to find local (or not so local) breeders and upcoming shows or events that you may be able to go to in your area. Reputable breeders are registered with the AKC. Just because someone bred their dogs together, that does not make them a breeder. Certain breeds of dogs are not necessarily the best for certain environments or home situations. Certain breeds may be better with adults versus children. Some breeds for instance, are not good in certain types of weather. The short nose breeds (Brachycephalics) typically do not do well in extreme heat. Certain examples of these breeds are English Bulldogs, French Bulldogs or Pugs. There are some breeds of dogs that require more exercise than others, so if that is not something you can provide for the breed you choose, you may want to decide on a breed that is typically less active. Long haired dogs require a bit more maintenance and grooming than short haired breeds, so that is something else you should consider.

Be sure the pet you are adopting or purchasing from a breeder is healthy and happy. Dogs are social creatures and typically enjoy being around people. The dog that is hiding behind the others may not necessarily be the best one to choose because they are “quiet.” It may indicate that they are fearful or environmentally sensitive, which could be a trigger for more behavioral issues in the future. In the state of Florida, a health certificate signed by an accredited veterinarian is required by law. No matter where you purchase or obtain a pet, check the source to make certain the animal has been well treated, raised with love in a humane and professional environment to avoid infectious diseases, parasites and congenital conditions prevalent in puppy mills and similar operations. You may have to pay twice on a pet that you purchase if high vet bills are required on top of the purchase of the pet.

RD: Taking care of your pet can be expensive, what are your thoughts about pet insurance?

DS: The cost of veterinary care can be very expensive, especially when a pet becomes ill. It is always advised that you insure your new pet, prior to any pre-existing conditions. This will help take away the worry of the financial burden that can come along when the pet becomes ill. There are numerous insurance companies available these days that all have the same goal, to protect your pet and to protect the owner from large medical bills. It may be helpful to go to the American Animal Hospital Association’s website (AAHA) to review the companies that are available. It’s best to choose options with the lowest deductible and highest percentage of reimbursement, without a cap on the policy.

RD: We see advertising on TV every day about pet food options, how can a consumer find the best option for his/her pet?

DS: Pet food options are numerous along with a lot of over the counter supplements that make claims that they will improve the life of your pet. It is best to get the recommendations of what to feed your pet from your veterinarian. A lot of times, the recommendations are going to come from the heart. They will be based on their own experience and what they feed their own pets. That decision is likely based on the scientific data that goes along with the diet recommendations, not from compensation from the company. Veterinarians do not get compensated from the pet food companies that they recommend. You want to feed a diet that has data to back up their claims. The choice should be made on fact, not opinion. It is advised that you do not start any over the counter supplements unless you speak to a veterinarian.

RD: How can pet owners find a good veterinarian?

DS: Choosing a veterinarian is also a very important decision. You are bringing a new family member to them. Some owners prefer a smaller, one or two doctor practice without a lot of extra services, however, some owners prefer a larger practice that not only has general practice, but also has other specialties and emergency services available if needed. The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) website is also a valuable tool to find an AAHA accredited hospital in your area. AAHA accreditation requires that hospital to practice a slightly higher than expected standard of care. Friends and neighbors are always a good source of information as well. The highest compliment any professional can get is a referral from another client due to their confidence level with a veterinarian or practice. 

Thank you, Dr. Schwartz, for taking care of our pets and for sharing information with our readers. As a reminder you can check out the experience of our community with veterinarians or pet insurance at www.BBB.org/SEFL to read reviews and any complaints and responses. BBB Accredited businesses also make a commitment to standards and working proactively with consumers and you can also search for businesses that have earned BBB accreditation on the website.